A very Village fire drill in Austerica

Posted by Katrina at 12:48 pm on Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Filed under Australia,General,Melbourne

Let me preface this entry by saying that one: I had never seen The Blair Witch Project before last night, and two: it is legitimately terrifying. So you can understand why after watching it at Liam’s, Casey and I decided to have ourselves a little slumber party.

After putting on a happy movie, we finally drifted off to sleep somewhere between the hazy, little hours of 3 and 4. Now, it’s not strange for me to wake up in the middle of the night (I tend to twist myself up in my sheets to a point that’s almost life-threatening ) but when I woke up at 7 am, I had a funny feeling. A minute later, a shrill, high-pitched ringing sounded somewhere outside. I sat up on my elbows, squinted through the muted light in my room and went over possibilities of the sound’s origin:

-We are being attacked by aliens, and this is the noise their ship makes.

-It’s the Blair Witch.

-I’m dreaming.

-I’m NOT dreaming…I’m awake and this ringing will be something I have to deal with for the rest of my life.

Then I snapped to and remembered what one of the Res Lifers had told me and Tracy a few weeks ago–that sometime before the end of the semester the Village would be conducting a full-scale fire drill where everyone had to evacuate their rooms and meet on the fringes of the establishment for a head count.

But something wasn’t adding up. I looked over at Casey. I don’t even think she was awake yet. How could this be a fire drill if it didn’t even wake someone up? I thought back to my past experiences with fire drills: back at Marist my first semester freshman year, when I was caught in the shower (I’m not joking) three times by the blaring sirens…all the countless nights I was woken up in Shango in New Paltz, narrowly escaping a ceizure from the flashing lights….checking to see if my ears were bleeding as I walked down hallways as sirens screeched above…

If this was a fire drill, how was it that I was still (somewhat) cozy in bed? The ringing was annoying yes, but not enough to make me get up. Casey seemed to be thinking the same thing. Then Tracy came in and joined the party, but was a little less blase about what was going on. She had a test in a few hours, and had only fallen asleep a little bit before. We all sat in my room and listened outside. We heard voices, but no one was knocking on our door. Still the ringing persisted. I put a pillow over my head.

“You know, if this was a fire, we could be dead right now,” Tracy said. I lifted my head up from my pillow and thought it over. She was right. The ringing was a pretty poor excuse for an alarm, and, depending on whether or not I’d gone to the pub or not the night before, I might not have even been woken up by it.

Eventually the ringing stopped, and Eva sent me a text message, echoing Tracy’s statements: “Some fire drill..you guys would be dead right now if that was real.” She also said a bunch of people were missing from the head count.

Later on it was revealed the res-lifers in mine and Tracy’s building forgot to knock on our doors and force us out, which is an understandable mistake. But the whole drill just seemed so much more (to use the same adjective I’ve been using to compare Australia and the US since I’ve got here) laid-back. It seemed like no one really cared whether we turned up to the head count or not.

I was really attracted to the whole “no worries!” attitude when I got here. But now that I’ve been living it for almost four months, the take it slow, take it easy, why the rush deal is actually wearing me out rather than calming me down, especially with school. I still get so aggravated at my classmates for being so careless about turning in assignments and/or going to class, and even more so with my teachers for letting it happen. It seems like no one is motivated to do much more than what’s required of them.

Sigh. Sometimes I wish I could take America and Australia and mash them together and make a hybrid country. Little bit of the GO GO GO of America and the chilllllll dude of Australia. I could name it Ameristralia.  OR Austerica. (I kind of like the second one…possible title for my future Australian memoirs?)

In any case, in the next three weeks I’ve got two classes to attend, four papers to finish (err–write) and one test to take before I can fling myself into the open arms of New Zealand for a solid seven days. Then it’s over the Pacific and back into a life that’s getting a little less hazy with each passing day

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Lazy Day Afternoon.

Posted by Brandon at 5:00 am on Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

Last Friday my classes were canceled because my teacher was sick. Although I sincerely hope he’s OK, it was so great to have the day off. It was beautiful outside; temperatures were in the upper 60s and the skies were clear. I woke up early, went for a run, and then looked for something to do all day. Originally, Eva, Liam, and I were going to go for a walk to the park. I know this doesn’t sound very time consuming, but because Eva’s foot is still mildly crippled, it would have probably taken half the day. HA Just kidding; I love you, Eva.

On our way toward the park, we ran into our friend from Mexico, Alejandro. We then realized that both Eva and Alejandro were wearing Von Dutch brand hats. I clearly had to take advantage of the photo-op.

(My amazing editing skills + Microsoft Paint. Impressive, I know.)

We decided a trip to the park was not going to happen, so we visited our friend Westy’s room instead. Inside were Scott, Shiv, and Alex. We only stopped by for a little, and then we decided to go check on Katie and Tracy.

When we got to Katie and Tracy’s room, neither of them were home! But their Japanese suitemate, Natsumi, answered the door. We were so excited that we took a picture with her.


In the middle of our picture taking moment, who walks in but KATIE! She was very surprised. We convinced her to hang out with us rather than to do homework or something like that. We’re obviously a really great influence.

We packed up our things and went back to Eva’s room. We just hung out and talked about how little time we have left in Australia. It’s crazy that we literally have a month until we go back to America. To get my mind off the issue, I took multiple pictures such as these:

(Look! Liam is biting off Alejandro’s head!)

Hours later, we realized we had been neglecting our hunger. We decided to cook an absolute feast. Everybody contributed something, and Tracy met up with us in the kitchen. I love pot-luck dinners. I think what we did can be classified as that. It was nice until my stomach was so full I felt like I was going to vomit. But I didn’t vomit, so it’s OK.

All of us decided we needed to relax after eating our meal that could have fed a small nation. We decided to watch a Japanese animated movie, Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also did Spirited Away. These movies may be animated, but they’re definitely not solely aimed at children. They’re really beautifully done, and the underlying themes are remarkable. I definitely recommend them to anybody.

We were all fairly tired after the movie, so we headed off to bed early. It was a pretty random but epic day. I feel like I should be spending a lot of time traveling around Melbourne and exploring, but sometimes it’s important to have a lazy day and just be with your friends.

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Goodbye Hard Rock

Posted by Corey at 3:57 pm on Thursday, May 22, 2008
Filed under General

Yesterday I went into work to pick up my schedule for the week and was a little shocked to see that after Saturday, it was all blank. I’m really finally leaving! I still can’t believe how fast the year has passed. All during my shift last night my managers and work friends kept telling me not to go, that I’ll really be missed, and it made me so sad! I feel like I’ve become out of touch with my friend’s at home, and when I finally am back in the States, I’ll feel like a foreigner. It’s strange to think that you can feel more comfortable in a country which your not a citizen of, but I feel just that. Getting used to being home, without my friends here, the language I love, and the absence of dulce de leche will be challenging.

Being outside the States has really been an eye-opening experience. One of the things that really shocks me is how much the movies influence how other countries perceive Americans. When people find out I’m from the States, one of the first things they ask is “Is it really like the movies?” I never know how to answer..um..yes? Obviously, not everyone is the typical beer-guzzling, screaming frat boy or “Mean Girl” stereotype as so commonly portrayed, but it is disheartening to think that’s exactly what so many perceive us as. A part of the problem might be that for some reason, they don’t play the Oscar winners here. Every American movie I’ve ever caught while passing through the channels has been shamefully bad. “American Pie, Norbit, and Van Wilder” are just a few of the gems that unfortunately are on heavy rotation. In addition to ruining their careers, actors should seriously turn down these ridiculous parts just for the sake of maintaining a better world image!

I’m looking forward to being productive when I return and, of course, hope I can afford to keep traveling again soon. This summer will be “a full,” in between interning at the magazine, waitressing, and possibly baby-sitting for a well-off family my sister watched over during her freshman year at Columbia. With a little luck, I hope I’ll be able to ignore the clothes racks and save whatever I can for my next destination. There’s a slight possibility of Mexico in October, but if not, I’m already planning with my best friend here a trip to India, Egypt, or Greece. We still haven’t decided which for sure, but it’ll be good to have something new to look forward to while I’m mourning the absence of Buenos Aires in my life.

One of her good friend’s from Germany is here until Sunday, so we’ve got a full weekend lined up. Renting bikes, going to the horse races, and Sunday brunch are some of the highlights I’m looking forward to. It’ll be good to do some touristy things with her, and maybe wrap up the few missing things that I still need to bring home.

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Trippy Tuesday

Posted by Katrina at 9:46 am on Thursday, May 22, 2008
Filed under Australia,General,Melbourne

I’m pretty proud of myself for sticking to the resolution I made a few weeks ago: that I would take advantage of Melbourne on my days off. Being that Brandon, Casey and I all have off on Tuesdays, it’s usually our outing day, and it’s normally a pretty good time. This past Tuesday, though, weird stuff kept happening. Strange surprises kept popping up that may or may not lead to two of your favorite American bloggers appearing on Australian news sometime soon… (Don’t worry, we weren’t arrested/doing anything illegal, I swear.)

 Casey, Brandon, Liam and I all took an early tram in with the idea of going to the Queen Victoria Market and hitting up the Melbourne Museum. We’d all been to the market in March, but squeezing between souvenier-hungry crowds in 100-degree weather is actually perilous, so we didn’t last long that time. This trip was much more pleasant. I was able to score some sweet t-shirts for some friends, and I tried lamb for the second time in my life and actually liked it for the first time.

First odd event of the day: we’re walking to the museum, and up ahead I see a guy wearing the same hoodie as Liam…and he’s also wearing a similar messanger bag…and he has scruffy black hair…and dark jeans. I swear it was Liam three minutes in the future. So of course being the mature, 20-somethings we are, we dodgily ran to catch up with him. Brandon managed to snag a photo.

First, Liam: n27904471_32194745_7700.jpg 

His bizarro twin: n27904471_32194719_9895.jpg

Onto the museum. The exhibit we went to see was called Drugs: A Social History. Looking it up online, it looked decent,  but when we got there it was rather boring. Lots of non-exciting reading about side-effects, and even less about the sub-cultures formed around drugs, which is the interesting part. (I’m thinking the 60′s, Hunter S. Thompson’s writing, etc.) I was feeling grumpy and bored when this guy came in with a TV camera and huge light set which enabled me to take some Peter Pan photos on a blank wall:

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But, quirky event numero dos occurred when a pretty lady with a microphone asked us if we wanted to be on SBS (think NBC in America) news! What. Of COURSE we wanted to be on TV! (Casey’s excluded in that statement.) She interviewed us seperately. Brandon went first, but it was too hard to  hear what she was asking him, and I was too busy cracking jokes to Liam and Casey that I didn’t really think about the fact that I would have to be answering the same questions in a few minutes……on camera. So, naturally, when it was my turn to answer the sizzling, “So what did you think of the exhibition?” I tripped and fumbled over my words so badly that I essentially gave up and said “Oh my God I am BABBLING.” Andddd upon starting over….did practically the same thing. My one shot at Australian fame, and I blew it. Good thing I don’t have a TV and don’t have to re-live my own personal catastrophe.

After the museum we ended up in a cathedral right off Swanston Street. The name is escaping me, but it was a really interesting experience. I don’t believe in the Catholic church as a system of belief, but I think churches in themselves can be really beautiful. What made this one particularly interesting was the fact that down at the end of the aisle, where all the holy practices are conducted, sat a huge hunk of machinary. I think it was a crane or a lift of some sort. Whatever it was, I found it so curious. It looked like an alien that got lost or something.

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The occupation of this thing in a space that’s considered sacred by so many people held me so captive for some reason. At first I thought it looked really unnatural and grotesque. Then the more I sat there looking at it, the more sense it made to me; it looked strange at first because it was so obviously man-made, and churches usually have auras of being more other-wordly. But then I though that the church and the actual religion itself are also constructions of humans, and the machinery began to look more at home in the space.

Few other pics I took in the cathedral:

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Around the corner was this Opal store that Casey had a coupon for “a bag of rough opals” for, and after walking through a shady alley-way with a lot of sick graffiti, we found it.

So we walk into the place, and it’s really bright… and completely empty. We kind of just stood there for 30 seconds to a minute before a man in his late 50′s or 60′s came out, and without any introduction of any sort, said, “Let me show you how you refine opals!”

O..kay. We didn’t really have anywhere to be, so we watched and made small talk as he finely sanded a rough opal to a beautiful pearl color.

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He had a ton of enthusiasm. Almost TOO much enthusiasm. He was crazy. about. opals. For some reason, (let’s say paranoia) I started constructing images of brutal torture in my head: him sticking our fingers in the sander, one by one…him conking each of us out with a huge slab of opal…Then he said, “Now I’ll show you my creatures!”

Excuse me, creatures? My imagination switched into high gear as he lead us into a darker room full of glass cages behind which were sitting various reptiles and insects. The kind of insects that kill.

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“You know black widows you guys have back in the US?” he asked with a grin. “Well we have redbacks. Enough venom in this little guy to paralyze you on the spot!” I just stared at him. Then when he turned around to take out his scorpion (it was “tame”) I snuck a quick, wide-eyed peak at the others. Liam shot me a skeptical grimmace, and Casey and Brandon were slowly backing up.

 After we were shown a python (named–you guessed it–Opal) and some lizard thing, we headed back into the light. After the owner went into the back room to grab something, I discovered I wasn’t the only one concocting psycho worse-case situations in her head. Brandon: “I know! I thought he was showing us the spiders so he could torture us with them later!”

In the end, it turns out that he was just super-friendly and passionate, and, once I realized he wasn’t going to kill us, I found him completely intruiging. He’s made millions in the mining of Opals all over Australia, and somehow, managed to avoid becoming a snob…though he made no secret about how much each of the Opals spread before us was worth. An opal literally the size of a pea carried a weight of several hundred dollars. IIII know. But some of them were amazing. Each piece of this one is worth thousands. I love it when nature does stuff like this. Blows my mind.

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Before we left, the owner let us dig through his rough opal “mine” (a table with bits and pieces on it) for some scrap souveniers. Not quite the same as actually mining…but then again I’ve never been so who knows.

I feel like each part of this day was its own chapter in a weird story book. Maybe some day I’ll write the expanded version and market it to kids or something.

In other news, I bought my ticket to New Zealand today! Eight days of Lord of the Rings land, baby. We’re gonna rent a car and do sight-seeing that way.

 Roughly a little over three weeks left in Australia. Yikes McGee.

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Kissing Families.

Posted by Brandon at 6:10 am on Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

I don’t know why I haven’t mentioned this until now, but I have a few relatively distant relatives here in Melbourne, Australia.  My grandma’s cousins, who lived across the street from her growing up in Italy, settled in Australia after World War II.  They’ve lived in Melbourne ever since.

When my grandma’s cousins, my Zia Maria and Zia Teresina, found out I was studying at Victoria University, they jumped at the opportunity to be the hospitable Italian women I imagined them to be.  So far, Casey and I (I got to bring a friend) have gone to Zia Maria’s house twice for dinner.  Both times the meals were pretty elaborate.  This past Sunday she made homemade gnocchi bolognese, veal cutlets, potatoes, salad, and cake.  It was absolutely delicious.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  You know yours is, too.

After Zia Maria found out I had my gross stomach virus incident earlier in the semester, she made it VERY clear that if I was in that situation again, she’d be here to take me to the doctor.  It’s really comforting to know that I have family so close by, even if they’re my 4th cousins (or something really distant of that nature).  Hopefully I’ll see them before I have to leave Australia!  They’ve been a big part of my Melbourne experience.

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Down on the Farm

Posted by Katrina at 1:09 pm on Friday, May 16, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

So as you may have read on Brandon’s blog, this past weekend we took a little roadtrip out to good ol’ Swan Hill. Even though I’d never been there before, it gives you the feeling like you’ve known the place all your life. I think it was the way Liam’s family took us in so graciously and generously that did it.

Whenever you go to someone’s hometown it’s like chiseling a little bit away at another layer of them that you couldn’t get to before.  I guess since I’d only known Liam in the context of Melbourne, I had him pegged as a city boy. But it was really curious to see the dusty country roads he’s driven on, the trees he’s climbed as a kid. I mean, the kid had a pet kangaroo that was fed with a bottle and slept in a pillowcase hung from a doorknob.

 Anyway, start of the trip:

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A long car ride is always do-able when you have good friends and Britney Spears’s greatest hits. Not to mention some pretty fantastic scenery:

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So we get to Liam’s, and we’re greeted by two of his (many) dogs, a home-cooked meal and tons of questions from his parents. Wouldn’t have had it any other way. After we digested, Liam’s dad took us out in the “triton,” which is their big, bad Australian country truck, and we went spotlighting. We were all a little dubious about what this even meant, but we soon learned it meant heading out into a field in the pitchest black the sky has to offer, and using a gigantic flashlight’s beam to find kangaroos. And kangaroos we did find. I felt pretty satisfied with myself after the trip to Healseville, but nothing, and I mean nothing,beats chasing kangaroos around a field in a truck.

After that bit of exhileration, we took some time to relax before bed. Now, I’ve been in some cozy rooms before, but Liam’s living room takes the cake: wood-burning stove, hand-quilted crafts galore, multiple couches and recliners. And my favorite, platypus coasters:

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Of course we got Liam to break out the baby pictures.

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The next day we went into the town of Swan Hill and hung out with a giant fish.

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And we also went down to the Murray River, which (according to Liam) was at a lot lower than it has been in the past because of the drought.

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 All of Australia is really into water conservation, but I didn’t really realize how important it is until I saw the state of Swan Hill. Everything just looks bone dry and brittle. Liam’s dad is really up on his info about conservation and sustainability because of everything they’ve had to go through with the water situation.

After coming home from town, we meandered around the farm for a while. The sun came out and turned everything golden instead of the muted gray that had been lingering around. Beautiful:

   n27906457_32164940_6581.jpg  n27906457_32164937_5707.jpg  n27906457_32164939_6276.jpg 

    

We also checked out some scenic foresty locations. This one especially reminds me of Peter Pan:

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On the way home, since the streets were pretty much deserted, Liam agreed to give Tracy, me and Casey a lesson on stick shift! That was good fun, let me tell you. My past experiences with manuel have only involved a quad (or ATV) my brothers picked out, snow, and stalling every time I tried to start the thing. So when I got it first try, I was supremely pleased with myself. Likewise, Tracy and Casey did as well. Achievements all around.

Later, we also saw a baby lamb 20 minutes after it had been born. Disgusting fact: after the baby is born, the mother licks the placenta off of it in order for her body to create an enzyme or nutrient that nourishes the baby when it feeds. Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t see that part. But look! Cute!

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That evening, Liam’s aunt and uncle came over and we had a long, lively BBQ dinner. Points of discussion: climate change, Vegemite (which Liam’s dad stuck on a spoon and made me taste-BLECH), American elections, accents and much, much more. It was like a mini Thanksgiving.

I hadn’t really thought about the feeling I get from being with my family in a while. I was always aware of missing my parents and my brothers and my big family parties (I have like, 40 cousins altogether). It kind of just fades into a dull miss; it’s not something I feel at every second, but I’m usually conscious of it. But being with Liam’s family was one of those rare times when I think, “Wow, they’re on the other side of the world right now.” And I miss them pretty badly.

But enough sap. I only have a few more weeks left here, and being sad is a waste of time.

Stuff coming up to look forward to:

-being done with classes

-trip up north to Cairns in early June (white water rafting anyone? or bunji jumping?)

-New Zealand!! on the way home.

First I just have to get through the massive black cloud that is having four final papers due in early June.

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Feels Like Home.

Posted by Brandon at 1:00 am on Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

I’d first like to preface this entry by saying:  Yes, I do realize both this post and my previous one’s titles contain the words “feel” and “like.”  They just happen to accurately describe what’s going on in my head, OK?

With that said, I can move onto the heart and soul of this update.  This past weekend, Katie, Tracy, Casey, Liam, and myself all went on a magical 5-hour journey to Liam’s farm.

Our trip began with a woundrous, Britney-Spears’-greatest-hits-filled sing-along, as well as a stop at McDonald’s, as every important voyage should.  Because we weren’t able to hit the road until 4pm on Friday (we all had class), our main objecitve was to make sure Liam didn’t fall asleep at the wheel.  Thankfully, we achieved our goal and no lives were lost.

We arrived at Liam’s home town a little after 8:30pm on Friday.  He gave us the grand tour of his household, and we got to meet his mom, dad, and brother.  We were greeted with an amazing home-cooked meal, something I haven’t had in quite some time, a hug from Liam’s mom, and a handshake from his dad.  But don’t be deceived; although they live on a farm, these people are NOT country.  His parents both at one point lived in Melbourne, so they’re not what you’d expect for people living in a rural location.

After a delicious meal, Liam’s dad asked us if we wanted to go “spotlighting.”  I had no idea what this meant, but I was soon to find out.  The six of us squeezed into a 5-passenger truck (but not without some trouble closing the door).  We brought along with us a really strong, large flashlight-type device.  At first we just drove around the farm a little, seeing what the property was like.  Liam’s dad shone the flashlight on the arid land, showing us where crops once existed before the drought.

Then we hit the road.  We drove into wide open fields in search of kangaroo.  In the beginning we had absolutely no luck, and then I heard Liam shout, “Dad!  Look, there’s one!”  His dad FLOORED it.  Now, in traditional “spotlighting”, the kangaroos are shot.  I was grateful we were only chasing them.  Nevertheless, it was easily one of the most exhilarating things I’ve done in Australia.  Being out in the wild and watching kangaroos in their natural habitat is something I imagine very few Americans get to experience.  These animals are absolutely beautiful.

When we got back to Liam’s house, we were so tired that we felt as if we’d been chasing the kangaroos by foot rather than by car.  We relaxed in Liam’s living room for a little while, and watched Friends (yeah, I know, a quality “Australian” program).  Liam’s mom brought out a dish of candy and said goodnight.  We finally climbed into our respective beds and fell fast asleep.

For a little while I had forgotten I was on a farm.  And then our deep slumber was interrupted by Liam’s sheep herding dogs early in the morning.  Yeah, he has SHEEP HERDING DOGS.  This is so unusual for me, but equally amazing.  We got ourselves out of bed and took a 45-minute-ride into Swan Hill, the town closest to Liam’s house.  The town itself is really pretty.  It kind of reminds me of a small Long Island suburb.  But then again, I tend to relate everything to my hometown.  I think it’s some subconscious desire to feel at home.  That’s kind of deep.  Anyway, we stopped at a store so Liam and his sister could pick up a mother’s day present for his mom, and then found a cafe to eat breakfast at.  Afterward, we drove past Liam’s high school, which I decided was entirely too pretty to be a high school.  We also saw the river, a big fish (of which I failed to understand its significance) and a historical area, all of which were stunning.

(Liam’s high school)

We drove back up to Liam’s house and he took us to the river closer to him.  It was so pretty, even though the water level was really low.  It’s kind of sad to see such an important natural resource diminish like that.  Liam’s dad has a really great outlook, though:  “What can you do?  You change.  You adapt.”  Smart man.

Later that evening Liam’s extended family came over and we had a big barbecue.  It was, yet again, wonderful to have a home cooked meal.  And this one was a feast.  We answered a lot of conversations about ourselves and our hometowns, and soon got to talking about more serious things, like American politics.  It was interesting to hear an Australian perspective.  I’m kind of ashamed about the fact that these people knew so much about our presidential race, and yet I can’t even name the current Australian prime minister.  But anyway, it was a real great conversation.  The meal was seemingly never ending, but it finally wound down, and we got our stuffed bodies into bed.

The next morning was Mother’s Day!  I didn’t even occur to me until we got to Liam’s house that we might be intruding.  To help counter this fact, we went ahead and bought pancake mix, eggs, and bacon.  We woke up early and cooked Liam’s family a big meal to thank them for being so hospitable toward us over the weekend.  Soon after that we packed up our things and were once again on the road.

Getting back to the village was mildly depressing.  The entire weekend was a small taste of home.  Don’t get me wrong; I am not for one second ready to leave this place.  But being with a family is a warmth that isn’t easily forgotten.  Hopefully we can return back to Liam’s farm before leaving.  I feel as if I’ve acquired new family members after this weekend, and I want to be able to say good bye.

That’s all for now.  Until next time, peace, love, and congratulations on finishing up the semester all you New Paltzians.

P.S.  I don’t mean toot my own horn, but I love these pictures so I wanted to include them:

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A day with Dife, Casey and some roos

Posted by Katrina at 9:55 am on Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

Be fore-warned: this is a long one, folks. Read at your own risk of developing ADD 

 So before I get to today (which was A+), let’s travel back to say, September of this past year:

I’m sitting in Professor Miraldi’s Muckraking class on one of the first few days of the fall semester.  It’s hot, even for September, and I’m waving what was probably the syllabus in an effort to facillitate some ventillation in the stuffy, third-floor room. Miraldi is up at the front of the room, energetic as usual despite the heat, when he asks a question of the guy sitting behind me.

Being lazy, I don’t bother  turning around and continue to fan myself until something peaks my ears’ interest: the accent coming from the guy behind me is unmistakably Australian. (Keep in mind, this was right after I had decided I was definitely going to study in Australia. I may have even picked up the application that day, who knows.) I turn around slightly to get a peak at the foreigner: pretty friendly looking. I decide I’ll try and talk to him sometime about Australia.

“And what’s your name again?” asks Miraldi.

“Dife,” says the guy behind me. It must be some cool Aussie name, I think. The class continues.

Fast forward a week or so: Professor Good decides to hold Press in America outside under the shade, the kind of rare treat no high school teacher would bestow upon their students. Dife’s also in this class. Today’s the day, I decide, to sidle up to him and propose a chat about his hometown. Dife takes my number and I tell him to call me when he has a few minutes to spare.

Few days later, I get a text message from an unknown number: “Heyya Kt…wucha up to this evening?” (or something to that extent) This has to be Dife, I think, but let me make sure: “Hey…this is Dife right?”

And now for the point of the story, the text message I get back: “Ha, well you can call me that if you like….but my name’s Dave.

If you’re not cottoning on, try saying “Dave” with an Australian accent. Go on, most likely no one’s in the room with you. Try it. SEE? Dife.

So goes my first experience with a real Australian accent. Yes, it was utterly embarassing. (Even more so when Dave showed up to my friend’s art show and because I’d told everyone about it, was greeted as “Oh yeah, Dife!”)

So it turns out that Dave was studying in New Paltz for a bit, and he was from the school I was to attend in Melbourne. Now that I’m here we really haven’t seen each other all that much. But today however, he was kind enough to escort Casey and I to Healseville, an animal sanctuary an hour outside Melbourne. And yes, I FINALLY saw a kangaroo.

To start things off: the drive there was actually really pretty. I always thought Victoria was pretty much flat for some reason, but nope!
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Dife himself:

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This is a dingo. Maybe it ate your baby. (Seinfeld, anyone?) Anyway, it made me miss my pups.

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Drumroll please: here come the kangaroos! I thought its top paws looked weird at first, but dismissed it. Then Casey pointed out that those paws actually didn’t belong to the big kangaroo, but to the little joey she carried in her pouch!

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Next come the wallabees. They little guys were really skittish, but the older ones let you get right up in their business and pet them.

My new best bud:

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Scratchin’:

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Dife lends him a hand    

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Casey goes in for the awkward hug you give relatives you don’t know at family reunions you don’t want to be at:

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Next we had the wombat and the tasmanian devil. The first one was totally passed out in his little cave shelter thing. Wouldn’t you be? Look how nice it looks in there!

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The devil was running amock behind the glass-enclosed pen, so it was hard to get a good shot of him (or her?) but here he/she/it is:

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It felt good to talk to an Australian who’s been to America, especially one who studied at New Paltz. Kind of put us on the same footing. We talked about classes and internships and writing, which made me feel better about my studies–not just here–but in general. I told Dave how I’m kind of intimidated by writing as a career, and I really felt like he understood. We both agree it’s about finding your voice, your style, and cultivating it.

I told you this would be long. And I’m not even procrastinating anything right now.

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Long time, no post

Posted by Katrina at 12:22 am on Sunday, May 4, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

Sorry about that. I haven’t been fufilling my bloggerly duties lately. School has been swamping up my internet use, but it’s all paying off. I got my first paper back yesterday and did well. Thing is, they use a numbers scale of 0-100, but it’s extremely rare for someone to get above an 85. (What my teacher actually said was, “Don’t expect anything above 80.”)

I always hate it when teachers preface assignments with the whole “I don’t give out any A’s” schpeel. How’s that supposed to make students feel? But apparently, anything over 85% is saved for the rare geniuses that emerge from time to time.

Anywho, I’ve still been out and about, but unfortunately, my camera hasn’t been. The battery was really dead for a few weeks, and I kept forgetting to charge it. So some of the pictures you’ll see in here are courtesy of Ms. Tracy Soren, dear friend and beloved suitemate.

A few weeks ago I attended my first (and hopefully not last) footy game! You may have read about it in Brandon’s blog. It was pretty spectacular. Not the same as going to a Met’s game in August, but still a great experience. It took me half the game to latch onto the rules, but once I did I was pretty into it.

n27906457_32133615_30.jpg Insane crowds outside the Telstra Dome

n27906457_32133619_1128.jpg  The Western Bulldogs! (VU sponsors them, so we are obligated to be fans.)

  n27906457_32133620_1408.jpg Casey and I

The crowds were intense. It all may have been a little much for Brandon.

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I’ve also been trying to make the most of my weekends and head into the city during the day to check out everything Melbs has to offer. We went to the Melbourne Museum, which was beautiful, but we didn’t have enough time to see it all. Oh, also every time we get out of the Flinders Street station, some kind of wacko street performer has managed to garner the attention of at least 100 people in Federation Square. Like this guy.

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They’re never too great, but we always stop for some reason.

This past Tuesday, me, Brandon and Tracy went to the Victoria College of Arts to see Liam’s film debut! His class had all been given the assignment to make a one-minute movie with a Super8 camera. I was so impressed. As we were walking to the theatre, Liam turned to me and said, “You know, when I was younger I told myself I would live here someday. And here I am.” I really admire him for that.

Tracy took this beautiful photo as we walked past the Yarra River in search of some noodles. That’s professional quality right there, that is.

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On the walk back along the river, we started to notice a lot of police cars with their lights flashing. I didn’t really think too much of it, but as we neared the main intersection, we knew something was going on. Hundreds of people were crowded into the middle of the intersection, and parked taxi cabs lined two of the four streets leading into it. It was a protest.

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The sign the man is holding says “Stop killing taxi drivers.” The night before, a 23 year-old Indian taxi driver was the victim of a stabbing, and all the drivers in the city had rallied to show the need for better saftey precautions in cabs. It went on for hours, and it caused tons of traffic. But more power to them if it results in anything positive.

 School ends when May does, and I’m really looking forward to it because in June we’re planning on travelling up to the tropical North. MMM warm weather. It’s been so cold here lately, and I REALLY didn’t bargain for that. Que sera. In the meantime, I have crazy amounts of homework to do (in June I have three 6-10 pagers due all on the same day.)  However, the weekends are going to be reserved for fun times–next weekend we’re taking a trip into the country to stay at Liam’s house, and the next we’re going to Phillip Island to see the little penguins! So cute.

I promise, more blogs to come, more often!

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Last month realizations

Posted by Corey at 4:30 pm on Friday, May 2, 2008
Filed under Argentina,Buenos Aires

So I just noticed that the last time I wrote was just over a month ago, and I’m amazed (again) at how fast time is passing here. I’m always getting asked at work, “So how long have you been here?” and I have to keep changing my response by adding yet another month. And now I’m only left with one more! I was getting pretty frustrated today after waiting in line at the bank for 35 min, only to find out that no, I cannot make a deposit here even though I’m an HSBC account holder in the States, and the only way to put money into my checking account would be to have it transferred at the central bank downtown. Everything is so needlessly complicated here! But then I thought I only have another month to deal with these sort of things and felt better.

It’s sad though, I really love so many things about Argentina; the people, the lifestyle, the culture, but they have so many annoying complications! I think I will be amazed with my patience when I get home, but you have to have it here! The supermarket line is easily a 20 min minimum, the bank- forget getting anything done in under a half hour, the buses only accept change, which is like gold there’s such a shortage, etc etc. I’m not ready to get used to the super early American schedule, (dinner at 6, bars at 12) but it will be so nice to have the luxury of convenience again. Banks that are open till 5? Drive through? Information easily accessible online? Can’t wait!

I’ve finally gotten accepted into an editorial internship with Men’s Fitness starting June 9, but will only be in my city for a couple days before moving to NYC. Yess more moving! The apartment search has begun again, but this time it’s more fun as I attempt to scour through impossibly expensive listings. I’m looking into something in Astoria which would be relatively close to the internship and Hard Rock, where I think I’ll continue. I just need to ask for a letter of recommendation from the head manager here, and I think it’s almost a guarantee that I can start in NY right away. It will be strange to waitress in ENGLISH though; strange but maybe a comforting change. I still get a little overwhelmed when I have a party of 20 or so that I have to take on alone, and if I don’t understand something..it can be difficult. But still how fun is it to yell “Me das el fuego!” when bringing out the fajitas? Can’t say that at home.

My plan now is to continue Hard Rock for a little over 2 weeks so I have at least a week and a half to plan my last trip here. I definitely want to hit Salta and the north of Argentina, and maybe Bolivia? But I don’t know if it’s worth getting the visa for, so that’s still up for debate. I’m already thinking about who else I have to buy gifts for, and the packing! Can’t imagine how it’s all going to fit, but I’m sure I’ll be leaving quite a bit here. There’s just not enough space. I’m going to look ridiculous as it is dragging 2 checked bags, a carry on, and a large purse around.

But it’s also been a little nerve wracking as my time here comes to an end, and I’m forced to think more about the future. It’s so close. I’ve always had this grand plan of how I wanted to do things- Major in English, study abroad junior year, intern in the city that summer, and then graduate hopefully with a job waiting in the editorial. And it’s weird how all the pieces are finally falling together. After I finish the internship, I’ll only have one semester left at Binghamton if I can graduate early, and then I’m on my own, working and living independently in the city. It’s not like I’m terrified, but at the same time I do feel a little unsettled at the thought of the end of my college years, and move into adulthood. So for now, I’m trying to enjoy the time left I have here before moving onto the next chapter. And I hope it’s going to be a must-read.

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